What if It’s Not about Substitutionary Atonement?

Good Friday: It’s not about how it worked but that it worked.

David Anderson
Backyard Church

--

Statues depicting Jesus on a cross and three witnesses, one of them kneeling.
Photo by Grant Whitty on Unsplash

Jesus died on the cross for our sins. That is one of the bedrock beliefs of Christianity. But what does it mean? An idea called penal substitutionary atonement states that God’s perfect justice requires punishment for sin unless it is somehow atoned for. Everyone is guilty in some way, so everyone deserves punishment. But Jesus came to earth to serve that punishment (penal) in our place (substitution). Through his self-sacrifice on the cross, he satisfied God’s divine justice and became the ultimate atonement for our sins. (See for example, 1 Pet 2:24; 3:18; Eph 2:1; Gen 3:21; Exo 12:13; 29:41–42; Isa 53:4–6; Jn 10:10; Rom 3:23–26; Heb 9:26; 2 Cor 5:21)

Other possibilities

Penal substitutionary theory is most prominent in Protestant churches. In fact, if you grew up in any Protestant church, you might think it is the only theory of how Christ saved us from our sins. But there are other theories about how the crucifixion worked. Some are slight variations on Penal Substitution, but here are a few that take a significantly different angle.

Christus Victor — Christ was victorious over Satan, sin, and death through the cross and resurrection (Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20…

--

--

David Anderson
Backyard Church

David Anderson is a blogger, award-winning author, bible geek, and novice crypto investor. Doubting Thomas is my patron saint.